Digital futures— why boards need to increase their tech non-exec count

We’ve said this before— historically, boards tend to skew older and skew male. While that is thankfully changing - there are other issues among the top table. Did you also know that board members backgrounds tend to skew towards more traditional business functions - accounting, investment, business operations? Boards need to ensure they include a technology non-exec to ensure technology is a regular agenda item and that digitization is a top priority. 

“Boards can help identify the optimal value and impact of technology investments; understand the ethical implications of digital design and use; prepare for the talent implications of AI and robotics adoption; and increase the tech-savviness of the board as a whole.” - Deloitte

Companies who have been left behind in Covid-19, such as large retailers without an eCommerce presence, most likely didn’t have strong enough voices in the board room advocating for technological changes. In the case of eBay, who’ve had years of board-room-battles, rely on a decades-old model, while the likes of Amazon and Etsy speed past with unparalleled AI and AR advancements. 

According to a 2019 Deloitte report, “only 26 percent of employees believe their organisations are "ready" or "very ready" to address the impact of disruptive technologies.”

 

Wake up your business to the full potential of digitisation 

Hiring a non-exec with an ongoing role in technology provides instant access to a world of innovation and ideas never considered before. A technology-focused board member can help those less technology aware, and bridge the gaps in knowledge-creating a more cohesive board. 

A technology-focused board member will kick-start your companies digitisation and they will also:

 

Question the status quo 

You can expect a technology non-exec to want to be heard and bring a unique point of view to the room. They question where tech fits in, and not from just a risk perspective, but for multiple use cases. In the first few months and meetings, your new non-exec will be deep in detail, understanding the technological successes and failures as well as identifying gaps in your tech stack. 

A 2017 study by Deloitte reported that 48 percent of board discussions about technology are centred on cyber risk and privacy topics, while less than one-third (32 percent) are concerned with digital transformation driven by technology. There must be a switch in mentally here; digital transformation is not about security and risk - it is about innovation. 

 

Shake out any biases

It’s no secret that progress can be stifled by nepotism or cronyism. Bring in the same voices, from the same background, same accounting or business firms will do you no favours. A new, digitally-focused view is needed to cut through outdated or biased opinions. 

When it comes to tech, an outsider in this field is likely to have experience in one or multiple environments and bring a unique source of ideas into the room. This means they can cast a critical eye over your business and current technology without preconceptions or prejudice providing a consultant style approach. 

 

Identify start-up blockers 

We’re all guilty of working in our vacuums, focused on launch dates and capital raising activities, not identifying the best tech for our business. Let a technology-focused non-exec take that worry away from you by suggesting the most relevant new tech for your stack. 

If you’re thinking - but we’re new and young, and we get technology already. Consider this - the world of technology is moving at an insane pace - even since you started your business, tech has changed, evolved and progressed. It is vital to have someone living and working outside of your business, being exposed to and working with new technology (ideally in a different industry for lateral thinking!) 

 

Develop a growth mindset 

No one likes to be told their way of doing things is wrong unless you’re in a growth mindset which most business should be—failing fast and learning from your mistakes should be your focus. You should invite alternate opinions at all times - your business’ success depends on it.  

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Whatever the stage and size of your business, hiring a technology non-exec is one sure-fire way to ensure you are never left behind. Invite change. Invite contrarian opinions and consider if you are in a growth mindset as a business. A technology non-exec could be the difference between you doing well and you smashing it!

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